Why did I become an OT?
Well, this story is sort of short and sweet (at least I will try to keep it that way, but it might be hard). I have always had a passion for children and child development. Before I was 10 years old, I would knock on the neighbor’s door and ask to feed her baby girl her bottle (she always said yes). I babysat from the age of 13 until I left for college back east, during which time I continued to babysit and I took so many child development courses I nearly had a minor in it. I. Love. Kids. You get it.
Then I graduated from college, and wasn’t quite sure what I would “do.” I found a job as a paraprofessional with an early intervention agency in Orange County, where I was responsible for implementing speech, behavior, and occupational therapy programming with children 0-3. I LOVED my job. I would come home exhausted (and usually sweaty), but my heart was so full. I wondered which discipline I would pursue, all of which entailed graduate school, so I wanted to be sure my heart was in it. Enter, Joey (okay, his name wasn’t Joey, I am changing his name for privacy purposes. And yes, his mom gave me permission to share our story).
I met Joey when he was 18 months old, and I spent 12 hours a week with him for another 18 months (between his home and the clinic). He was a premie and had severe feeding issues when I met him. So, under the direction of his OT, I learned all about oral motor skills, the progression of feeding solids, and how to help a child in their occupation of EATING. I would set Joey up in his high chair, prep him before eating with the oral motor exercises, and offer a spoonful of food. It’s a wonder he was compliant and accepted said-spoonfuls because, for months, he would projectile vomit EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. His dad would come in with a Costco roll of paper towels, help me clean up the mess, and we would move on to something else.
One day, after months of therapy, we had progressed to “meltable solids,” I offered him a graham cracker. His dad was with us at the time, and by gosh, Joey picked up the cracker and took a bite of it, chewed it, swallowed it, then took another bite. His father and I were staring at him with our jaws on the floor, and tears pouring down our cheeks, as he continued to eat the cracker. He looked at us like, “what, you’ve never seen someone eat before?” I mean, I can still picture his cute little face munching away on that thing. It was this moment that I knew that I would become an occupational therapist. Within a year of that breakthrough feeding session, I was starting graduate school for occupational therapy, and here I am now!
Joey, you are my inspiration, my muse, and I am forever so proud of you and so thankful for this path you set me on.